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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,179


This is the grave of Hy Lit.

Born in 1934 in Philadelphia, Hyman Lit became a disc jockey in his home town as a young man and he was disc jockey for basically his entire adult life. He graduated from high school there and went to Miami University in Ohio, where he majored in communications. He then went straight back to Philadelphia. He was the king of AM radio in Philadelphia during the 60s. Even in the 50s, as a teenager, he had a late night radio show where he played the newest rock and roll hits. Lit was one of the disc jockeys who combined white and Black music. For him, rock and roll really meant R&B and Black audiences thought he was Black for some time, even after he appeared to them at shows. Some thought it was joke because he fit in to them, or at least this is how repeated the stories later in life. By the late 60s, he was the host of a nationally syndicated show called the Hy Lit Show, which brought his voice to stations around the country. During the 1960s, he was one of the biggest DJs in the nation, hosting live performances by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and other big acts of the day. He also got to know Otis Redding, The Supremes, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, and other Black acts of the era, doing a lot to promote them in the Philadelphia area.

Lit almost always worked in Philadelphia. As the radio industry changed, he changed with it and switched stations a lot. At one point, he decided to become the voice of the Harlem Globetrotters and left Philly for that, but he soon returned, back on the radio once more. By this time, Lit was fully a man of the music of his youth. He didn’t go for that the newer dirty rock and roll as time when on, even if he had to call shows that counted down the hits to pay the bills. He became known in the 80s for hosting a live oldies show at a hotel in New Jersey that was very popular with the older set.

Toward the end, Lit became known for fighting against age discrimination. As is frequently the case, these cases are tricky in the details. By the mid-90s, Lit was suffering from the beginning stages of Parkinson’s and this doesn’t get better. It did affect his work. His employer began to push to reduce his hours and workload. CBS, which ultimately owned the stations where Lit worked, agreed. Lit did not agree, at least when they reduced his salary to match his limited hours. He sued in 2002. CBS responded by canceling his health insurance entirely and reducing his hours to almost nothing. In 2005, the two parties came to an agreement. Lit retired at this time. He got a few last shows, but could not announce his retirement. They wanted the whole thing to go away and they evidently paid Lit enough of a settlement for him to agree to this. His last show was in December 2005.

Lit continued to suffer from his Parkinson’s and in 2007 died after falling and suffering a severe knee injury that led his body to start shutting down. He was 73 years old. But he worked all the way to the end, when despite his age and health, he hosted his own internet radio show.

Hy Lit is buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.

There may be more to say here, but I will leave it to the Philadelphia portion of the commentariat.

If you would like this series to visit other radio personalities, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. André Baruch is in Hollywood and Gertrude Berg is in Delaware County, New York. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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